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South Sudan Troops Deployed to Upper Nile State

FILE - Generals of South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF) attend the graduation ceremony of the new members of Unified Forces at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Aug. 30, 2022.
FILE - Generals of South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF) attend the graduation ceremony of the new members of Unified Forces at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Aug. 30, 2022.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir early this week deployed the national army to parts of Upper Nile State to end ongoing clashes between warring SPLA-In Opposition factions.

Troops were deployed to quell fighting between the SPLA-In Opposition faction loyal to General Johnson Olony and an armed militia from Jonglei state. The latest bout violence began in October.

The spokesperson for the South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces (SSPDF) Major General Lul Ruai Koang said the army is ready to restore calm in the area.

“The regular SSPDF forces are already on the ground and they have been able to ward off any attack that was being planned by the White Army. Meanwhile, we are working on the long-term solution for the ongoing insecurity,” Koang said.

Koang declined to disclose the number of troops deployed to Upper Nile State's Fashoda area but said the national army will "engage if the White Army is resisting their orders to leave the Chollo Kingdom."

The SSPDF spokesman said the troops are in Upper Nile to protect civilians, adding they will not interfere in clashes between SPLA-In Opposition factions.

“Let the rival factions of SPLA-IO sort out their issues without necessarily targeting the local population. We have to intervene because the forces of General Olony were not able to protect the civilians in the area under his control,” Koang said.

Fashoda County Commissioner Joseph Achan said several villages were burned to the ground by the armed militia from Jonglei State.

“They have come to protect the civilians and now the civilians are still scattered in the bushes. We welcome the SSPDF because they are coming to help the civilians. The attackers are still going around burning villages,” Achan told South Sudan in Focus.

The commissioner said his office and local leaders will give the SSDPDF any support needed to maintain law and order in Fashoda County.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says fighting in Upper Nile between the SPLA-IO faction led by Olony and the Kit-Gwang faction led by General Simon Gatwech Dual has displaced 20,000 people since August.

The U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) released a statement Monday saying the latest has violence displaced thousands of civilians — most of whom are women and children — with many fleeing to refugee camps in Sudan.

Jesper Moller, the acting UNICEF representative in South Sudan, called the situation "disturbing and alarming," adding that grave human rights violations are being reported against children and women along with increasing numbers of deaths and injuries.

UNICEF says South Sudan faces a humanitarian crisis where hunger and malnutrition are at record highs with 70% of children out of school and disease and gender-based violence rife.

"No violence against children is justifiable and we must see an end to the fighting – children’s lives depend on it," said Moller. "UNICEF and our partners are on the ground and will continue to provide life-saving services for children and families to minimize injuries, and disease and protect lives and well-being of children."

The agency says psychosocial support emergency responders are working to meet the needs of women and children.

It estimates that between 22,000 and 40,000 people have been "displaced or on the move from the Kodok area on the West Bank of the White Nile River."

The U.N. says affected families are fleeing to the state capital, Malakal, where more than 2,600 other displaced persons have sought protection after years of regional violence.